HP labs researchers have been doing some interesting work working Glass as a medium for 3D printing. Although not quite the same as having a print and your done method like plastic, it does have a number of advantages. The article has some good examples of the variables and capabilities of the current research.
The article also included a good, short summary of why 3D printing is of such interest:
“Traditional assembly line manufacturing is speculative, costly and environmentally unsustainable. It is speculative because it commits substantial resources-energy, materials, shipping, handling, stocking and displaying-without a guaranteed sale. It is costly because each of these resources-material, process, people and place-involves expense not encountered when a product is manufactured at the time of sale. It is environmentally unsustainable because, no matter how much recycling is done, not using the resources unless actually needed is always a better path. Three-dimensional printing is currently of great commercial interest as it can be employed to manufacture parts on-demand economically and without the significant cost & environmental downsides, i.e. inventory and waste, associated with traditional manufacturing processes."
Having installed its fourth 'Lab-in-Box' (a self-sustainable computer lab in a shipping container) at Ahmedabad, India, Hewlett-Packard (HP) India is now in talks with the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) for installing more education focused labs.
Each HP Lab-in-Box comprises a shipping container that has 15 HP multi-seat thin client workstations, a multifunctional printer, wireless connectivity, electricity, furniture, fans and air conditioning. This approach allows multiple users (students in many cases) to be connected to one machine, which maximizes space and resource utilization while reducing cost and complexity. The same techniques that allow for containerized data centers have other applications as well.
While HP India is in talks with central and state governments for installing these labs across public schools in India, it has received demands from other countries as well. "Even Indonesia, Afghanistan and other African countries have also been demanding this lab but we are waiting for the pilot projects to get stabilized," said Jaijit Bhattacharya director, Government Affairs, HP India.
The HP labs organization in India has been researching ways to impact education through computing. We’ll likely see a number of products and approaches in the coming years that continue this wave forward.
Even though there has been a great deal of talk about the Kahn Academy and various on-line efforts to shift how education is performed, some foundational infrastructure is still required.
A Bloomberg article recently discussed the decline in the price of photovoltaic panels in 2011. The article discusses the fact that “The spot price of solar panels has fallen 47 percent this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, while crude oil prices have gained 8 percent in New York.”
You may think this means there may be a significant burst in solar installation in 2012, but these lower costs may not be sustainable though, since the actual costs involved in the production of solar cells have not declined and is more of a side effect of overproduction. The costs of installing solar cells has declined significantly as better techniques are being used today. The DIY market is responding to the reduction is solar panel costs as well.
It will be interesting to see what happens next.
HP labs put out an interesting article concerning their approach to collaborating on a new approach to the concept of a data center. It made me think about some of the previous posts here about better approaches to electricity generation as well as the breadth of possibilities for reducing power consumption in the data center. This illustration shows how power is consumed for most data centers (in particular where the electricity is generated using coal).
The further to the right you are the more leverage changes have in the overall power consumption. If you can eliminate applications that add no value, it can have a significant effect.
The HP article talks about the various approaches the HP labs team has applied to the data center itself, trying to take a joint approach to the design and constraints, and think out of the box (cabinet!).
The article also talks about the use of interns to bring a new perspective to a problem. I spent a couple of summers as an intern for GM back in the late 70s and I know I got as much out of it as they did.
After a searing Texas summer with more than two weeks of consecutive 100F degree days, it was refreshing to read Bill Kosik’s blog “Fall Into Data Center Savings” that provides a great overview of how weather affects the efficiency of various data center cooling strategies. The use of outside air for cooling is growing in popularity, and is the primary cooling mechanism for HP’s award winning Wynyard data center in the UK. Intel created a parallel environment that had one side of a blade data center used outside air economizer while the other side used direct expansion (DX) cooling, and saved 67% of the power costs over a 10 month period, and estimated annualized savings of 2.87M USD for a 10MW data center.
Why are we so focused on saving energy in data centers? The Western world has enjoyed reasonably priced power for our factories, offices, homes and vehicles, but there is a very rapidly growing demand from India and China that could change things very quickly. David Gerwitz, in a recent blog, noted that China demand for oil is growing at 8.68% annually, compared to a US growth of a meager 0.34%, and with growth of their middle class the demand could grow to 10.1 billion tons, or 78% of the world’s current capacity within 10 years. China’s demand growth rate in 2000 was 2.46%. The increasing demand will drive energy prices skyward as the capacity cannot grow as rapidly, so it is prudent to look at ways to increase operational and energy efficiency as a way to conserve energy and reduce costs.
We should not solely focus on energy, but should include all resources, include land and water usage. Corporate data centers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they are typically large permanent structures that are capital intensive, time consuming to build, and difficult to expand. Shipping container-based data centers, like HP’s Performance Optimized Datacenter (POD), provide a means to rapidly grow capacity in a matter of weeks, compared with an 18-24 month build for a conventional data center. Recently, HP’s Critical Facilities Services team released the patent pending HP Flexible Data Center concept that fits in between POD and traditional data centers in speed of deployment, flexibility and cost by using industrial components deployed in modules that can expand as demand increases, conserving capital, land and energy.